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January 12, 2006
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What does your vehicle say about you?


At the instant of detonation, an explosion converts liquid immediately into a gaseous form, whereby a flash of heat and light produces a tremendous force that overrides everything in its presence.

Even though it sounds like a day in Baghdad, I am only referring to that truckmount you've just fired up. And what a job it is, from getting your hoses set up and the pressure and heat properly maintained to figuring out what proper chemicals to use. Is the water supply connected? Is there enough gas on hand? At $3 per gallon - the gas, not the water - you might look at it as liquid gold. Finally, wand in hand, you walk through 90-percent humidity and 90-degree temperatures to clean the carpet of a home that has no air conditioning. It's enough to make even the most dedicated carpet cleaner wonder, "Why am I doing this?"

It doesn't take the proverbial rocket scientist to answer simply that it is a living. You need the greenbacks to pay off the van, the truckmount, the chemicals, the mortgage, the food for the family and so on and so on...

Your business is founded on your abilities and your equipment. In particular, your van, your clothes, your overall appearance plays an extremely important role in your day-to-day business operations. That sweaty T-shirt with "Society Sucks" emblazoned across the front just doesn't go with your customers. You have to replace it with clean apparel that proclaims neatness as part of your business. Think of it this way: if you are selling a home, the landscaping must be trimmed to perfection. Curb appeal counts big time.

That van you own is truly your first and best foot forward when you approach a customer's house. The inside as well as the outside of your van should be paid equal attention. That van is really an extension of you as a person, and it gives the customer the first glance as to how you are going to take care of their carpet and their home.

There is one company I know in Boston that washes its 13 vans each and every day, whether they need it or not. On the flip side, I've seen vans that looked liked they were from the hippie era, something many of you were born too late to remember: a period where bathing was unacceptable, clothes were left over from leftovers and the worse you smelled, the more you were accepted in that long-hair community.

Can you imagine a van bearing a similar exposure? Crooked logos with misspelled words, the dangling license plate, a cracked windshield and scrap papers piled up on the dashboard for all the world to see. All the indicators flash: "This guy coming into my house to clean my carpet? He doesn't even know what clean is! Woe is me!"

I've seen bad exteriors, but it's the inside of vans that really gets me. Spilled chemicals, unlabeled bottles, dirty hoses, and grease and oil everywhere. If I were the customer, I would tell the carpet cleaner to turn around and leave the premises. One item that is the most depressing to some from a poorly maintained van is the smell. Believe it or not, its not unheard of for protectors 3 years old or more still being used on customer's carpets. At that age, the smell would be beyond belief. To spray a protector that old on a carpet with that sour odor would be unforgivable. In addition, the smell from your van's waste tank would knock your socks off.

Protectors, as we know, are very vulnerable to extreme heat or cold. Think of them as you would milk. Frozen milk, when returned to normal temperatures, will separate and, if left at high temperatures, will conglomerate. Once the emulsion is disrupted in a protector, it's gone. You cannot return the emulsion back to its original form.

Chemicals should be shelved in an orderly manner and placed within easy reach - along with the appropriate MSDS - not helter-skelter all over the van. Labeled properly with a water-resistant marker, all your solutions should be pre-diluted and not addressed at the job. The same goes for your waste tanks; do not dump your waste solution on your customers yard. It's possible a neighbor would call some environmental group and then the problems will fly.

You drive the van, right? Why ride in filth? Get rid of the McDonald's bags, the leftover lottery tickets, the old football or baseball ticket stubs, the stacks of receipts of whatever and the coffee cups, oh the coffee cups! You will be a better person for it, trust me.

Now, I don't want you to think that all vans should be show-floor clean 24 hours a day, but hey, let's face it, neatness counts, and perception is reality. It tells everyone that you know your business and have more than your share of carpet-cleaning savvy. That observation definitely puts you ahead of the game and on the right track in the carpet-cleaning business.

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